Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chili Con Chicken

Chili is one of those dishes that anyone can personalize to their own taste. I mean just Google "chili" or "chili con carne" and look at the diversity of recipes that will appear. Personally I make several different recipes but I thought I would share the healthiest version today.

Short of a purely vegetarian chili (and that's practically an oxymoron) this turkey/chicken-based chili is the lowest in saturated and trans fats, significantly less than one made with beef or pork and it still tastes great.

• 1 lb ground or cubed turkey
• 1 lb lean ground or cubed chicken
• 2 (28 oz.) cans of tomatoes, crushed or purred
• 1 (5.5 oz.) can tomato paste
• 3 roasted red peppers
• 1 chopped onion or leek
• 2 chopped and seeded red chilies
• 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
• 1 (28 oz.) can red kidney beans
• 2 (10 oz.) cans baked beans in tomato
• 1 tbsp cumin
• 3 tbsp chili powder
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp sage
• 2 tsp HP Sauce

• 1 large (stock) pot
• 1 large fry pan (not non-stick)
• can opener
• large wooden or plastic spoon

The only ingredients that I consider essential to chili are tomatoes, kidney beans, chili powder, cumin and black pepper. Beyond these ingredients feel free to experiment.

Heat a large fry pan. Add a little oil and fry the chopped onion/leek. Then add the meat (ground or cubed turkey and/or chicken) and continue to fry until no longer raw. Meanwhile open all the cans (tomatoes, paste, kidney beans, baked beans). Rinse the kidney beans to remove the reddish liquid.

top left: ground chicken and turkey
top: kidney beans (rinsed)
left: baked beans

One technique for browning meat that works well for me is to add a pinch or two of white sugar to the heated pan (pre-heat for about 3 minutes), let it start to caramelize (turn brown) then add the meat. This works especially well with cubed meat or when browning a roast but it will also help with ground meat. Don't crowd the pan with too much at once, fry the meat in batches if necessary. Also remember that the less moisture present on the meat the better it will brown so blot the meat with paper towel before hand. For two pounds of ground meat this process could take as much as 15 minutes. Cubed meat will brown in less than half that time.

Once the meat is browned transfer it to the stock pot. Be sure to use a little broth or wine to deglaze the frying pan and add that to the stock pot as well. Add the kidney and baked beans. Continue cooking on medium-high for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and heat through (about 3 minutes). Then add the tomatoes and the chicken broth. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and leave for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes add the chopped and seeded red chilies and the roasted red peppers (chopped whatever size you like). Cover and simmer for another 40-45 minutes.

By this point the chili should have been simmering for at least 90 minutes. Now you can add the spices (cumin, chili powder, black and cayenne peppers, sage and the HP Sauce). Stir thoroughly to mix the spices throughout. I find that if you add the spices too early on the flavours will be diluted.

Now you have to make a decision - how much longer do you let the chili simmer? I like to simmer the chili for as long as possible until it has thickened up considerably. But you can simmer for as little as another 30 minutes and serve. I believe that good chili needs time to combine all the flavours and I consider 2 hours the minimum. I find chili simmered for less than 2 hours tends to be thin and watery (and I don't like to use flour, starch or any other thickener in chili).

Remember to give the chili a good stir every 30 - 45 minutes to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the stock pot. About 10 minutes before the chili is ready to serve taste it and add more spices according to your taste. If you want it 'hotter' add more chili powder and cayenne.

Serve with sour cream, your favourite bread (sourdough is especially good) and a vegetable of your choice (corn-on-the-cob is great).

Chili Fajita
When preparing a batch of chili I usually make a Chili Fajita or two, just to see how the chili tastes and if it has thickened as much as I would like. This often means making 2 or 3 fajitas over about a 1-2 hour period until the chili tastes just right. Of course this could be a meal in itself as well.

Put a tortilla on a non-stick fry pan and heat it (don't burn it or fry it until it is too brittle to fold, you just want to warm it through). Add a little cheese, your choice - cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, whatever works for you, and melt it. Then add 2-3 oz (60-90 ml) of chili. If you are making this as a meal you can also add a little chopped lettuce, sour cream or other favourites.

Slide the tortilla onto a plate and fold the sides in. Then fold the bottom up, and roll the tortilla over until the whole thing is closed. Let it sit for a minute or two to set and then enjoy. Serve with sour cream, guacamole or salsa.

Here are some ingredients I have used successfully when making chili (but don't use them all together - pick 1 or 2 from each section and experiment):
Meat: Ground or cubed beef, chicken, pork, ham, goat, venison, buffalo, bacon, tofu (pan-fried first)
Heat: Green or red chilies, jalapeno, chipotal, habanero*, Scotch Bonnet*, wasabi*, pickled peppers, chili flakes (*caution - these three are very hot)
Sauce: Hot sauce, Tabasco sauce, steak sauce (like HP, Heinz 57 or many barbecue sauces), Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mustard (such as Dijon or honey-mustard), sweet chili sauce. Usually just a couple tablespoons worth.
Beans: Kidney beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans, pinto beans... actually just about any legume will work in chili
Spices: Bay leaf, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, curry, paprika, rosemary, sage, salt (all to taste)
Others: Brown sugar, chives, onion, garlic, maple syrup, molasses, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, corn... and the list goes on.

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